Many women's spending habits are so notorious that they become fodder for jokes. But it's not funny to have to deal with the results of compulsive shopping, credit card abuse, gambling, or other unhealthy financial practices.
A woman's place isn't in a mall or a casino. It's following in the steps of God. God - not money - should be in charge of your life.
Here are some ways you can break foolish spending habits and develop wise ones:
Tell the truth. Admit the reality of how you misuse money. Acknowledge that you're powerless to make healthy financial decisions without God's help. Commit yourself and your financial situation to God.
Recognize the emotions behind your spending. Think and pray about how your emotions influence the way you spend money. For example, do you shop when you want to lift your mood? Do you try to buy someone's love through expensive gifts? Do you crave adventure and hope to find excitement by gambling?
Realize that only God has the power to truly fulfill you. Confess your emotional longings to Him and ask Him to give you the healing and satisfaction you desire. Before you spend money on anything, stop and check your motivations. If you're motivated by an emotional need, remind yourself that simply spending money won't truly satisfy that need. Attack the emotional trigger by interrupting the opportunity.
Don't hide from debt. Understand that debt won't magically go away if you ignore it. Ask God for the courage to face your debt honestly, and the wisdom to develop a plan to pay it off. Know that there is real hope for you to break free of your debt if you commit to surrender your will to God's will and work diligently to pay what you owe. Avoid taking on new debt while you work to pay off your current debt.
Realize that you shouldn't depend on others to provide what you can and should do for yourself. Take personal responsibility for what you buy; decide to purchase something only when you can afford to pay the full cost upfront.
Participate in a recovery program. Consider getting help from a group such as Consumer Credit Counseling Service, Debtors Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, or Crown Financial Ministries. These and other reputable organizations can provide valuable encouragement, support and accountability as you work to change the way you deal with money.
Challenge wrong beliefs about money. Realize that false beliefs can keep you stuck in self-defeating patterns with money. Understand that you can't make all your dreams come true by spending money and that you can't avoid pain by hoarding money. Know that your needs are legitimate and it's okay to spend money on yourself to meet them. Know that you aren't powerless; you have the power to make smart choices to enhance the quality of your life.
Get organized. Get all your financial information in front of you in one clear format. Get your time and space organized (such as by scheduling a block of time each week to pay bills and designating a central place for your receipts). After cleaning up your physical space to deal more effectively with money, get rid of unhealthy attitudes (such as escapism) that clutter your mind, so you can concentrate better.
Tackle overspending. Analyze your current spending by writing down everything you spend money on for a few days or longer. As you study the record, ask yourself honesty whether or not your purchases truly reflect your values and whether or not they're truly worth what they cost. Consider whether or not you truly need what you bought. Then ask God to give you the clarity of mind to distinguish between wants and needs. Remember that, to subsist, you need very little - food, water, clothing, and shelter.
Don't buy things you don't really need, or even want. If you have some extra money, save it rather than spending it. Only buy things when you can afford them. Don't spend money to make yourself feel better. Don't overspend on gifts to impress or gain the approval of others. Don't buy things on sale just because they're on sale. Resist indulging in spending rituals such as buying in pairs. Don't keep your spending habits a secret from others.
Overcome an addiction to shopping. Be clear about what specific things you want to buy before you set foot inside a store (or click onto a vendor's Web site). Make a list and stick to it.
Plan for big purchases so you'll have enough cash to pay for them without going into debt. Don't use shopping as a form of entertainment, or a way to help you deal with anxiety, to feel like you're taking care of yourself, or avoid unpleasant realities in your life. Don't buy things you won't use. Don't hide your purchases from others.
Use credit cards wisely. Don't use credit cards to avoid reality, gain a sense of power, for comfort and companionship, for excitement, or for love and approval. If you don't have the cash available to pay for something, don't charge it to a credit card.
Never pay just the minimum balance on credit cards each month; try to pay each month's bill off in full so you don't incur expensive interest. Build up an emergency reserve of savings so you won't need to charge emergency expenses like car repairs and medical bills on credit. Don't spend up to the limit of your credit cards, or use one credit line to pay another. Keep track of what you spend when you use credit cards.
Avoid gambling. Seek God's healing for past wounds that help drive you toward gambling. Rather than seeking excitement in gambling, look for other, healthier adventurous experiences. Never gamble with money you can't afford to lose. Don't view gambling as a way to escape your troubles. Don't seek status or attention through gambling. Never borrow or steal money for gambling, or keep the amount you've gambled away a secret from others.
Decide to trust God - rather than chance, or money - for your future. Know that only God will prove reliable.
Don't be an enabler. Decide that you won't cover up for someone else - a family member, friends, or co-worker - who is in debt. Don't use money to do for others what they can and should do for themselves. Don't take responsibility for someone else's debts, or give or loan someone money without considering the consequences to yourself. Never co-sign for loans with which you are uncomfortable.
Don't settle for less than you can earn. Don't under-earn because you think you don't deserve more, you're afraid of failing if you accept a more challenging job, you're afraid of the changes success would bring to your life, you're afraid of competition, you don't want to make a commitment to a job, or you don't want to be noticed. Be proactive and creative at discovering how you can earn more money. Don't expect someone else to take care of you; take responsibility for your own income.
Acknowledge your own needs. Don't discount the importance of your own needs in order to gain acceptance from others. Invest in the things you need without feeling guilty about it. Have the courage to say "no" when people ask you to do something unreasonable for them.
Don't become a pauper. If large sums of money make you uncomfortable, don't automatically spend it or give it away. Ask God to give you the confidence you need to handle money responsibly.
Practice spiritual disciplines. Renew your mind and heart by practicing spiritual disciplines that will help you approach life in a healthier way - including how you deal with money. Make time on a regular basis to study (the Bible, financial books, etc.), surrender (releasing people and situations to God's care), serve others as God leads you, listen for God's voice in silence, simplify your life so that it reflects your core values, become solvent (able to pay all that you owe), and enjoy serenity (the deep inner peace that comes from communing with God).
Build a support system. Stay connected to people who will help you as you change the way you deal with money. Seek advice and support from friends and counselors. Start a journal. Affirm the positive changes you notice in your life. Trust that God will complete the good work He has started in you.
Adapted from Addicted to Shopping and Other Issues Women Have with Money, copyright 2005 by Karen O'Connor. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or., www.harvesthousepublishers.com.
Karen O' Connor is a sought-after speaker, writing consultant, and the award-winning author of 40 books, including Getting' Old Ain't for Wimps; Help, Lord! I'm Having a Senior Moment (more than 100,000 copies sold) Basket of Blessings, and In Step with Your Stepchildren. She has appeared on national radio and television programs such as The 700 Club, 100 Huntley Street, Life-Style Magazine, and the Sally Jessy Raphael Show.